Do you eat naturally fermented pickles, cheese or yogurt? Then you probably have bacteria or microbes in your digestive system that love the very same foods. These microbes are called probiotics. The bacteria living in our gut varies and the types that thrive there are dependent upon the nutrients that we make available to them through our diet. This is an important concept since the specific bacteria that predominates can either provide numerous health benefits, including helping us maintain a healthy weight, immune system and digestive system, or cause harm, including promoting inflammation and permitting toxins to enter our bodies.
Most people don’t think about what happens after eating a meal. Our digestive system works to absorb all of the nutrients it possibly can – but not all foods can be broken down by our digestive system. Beneficial bacteria, working in harmony with our gut, happen to be fantastic at breaking down hard to digest foods so that their nutrients can be absorbed by our bodies. If undesirable bacteria predominate in our gut, ingested foods may not be fully broken down and can lead to abdominal bloating, cramps and constipation. Also, healthy bacteria in our gut is also involved in signaling our brain that we are satisfied by a meal. In contrast unhealthy bacteria can have an opposite effect causing us to have cravings and overeat. Before we dive into the benefits of probiotics, let’s first understand what probiotics are.
What are Probiotics?
Probiotics are a combination of healthy bacteria that are intended to preserve and maintain our beneficial bacteria. They help prevent the overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria, helping to maintain optimal health and wellness. Probiotics can be found in fermented foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, tempeh, kimchi, kombucha, and dietary probiotic supplements.
At any given moment, the body has both good and bad bacteria living in it. Probiotics are a combination of beneficial bacteria, and/or yeasts, with the most common microorganisms in probiotics that belong to groups called Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. These microorganisms help keep the body healthy and working well in many ways, including fighting off bad bacteria when the body has too much of it. In fact, when the healthy bacteria or microbiome is disturbed in some fashion, it has been linked to hundreds of ailments such as cancers, and autoimmune and cardiovascular disease, according to the National Human Genome Research Institute.
The Benefits of Probiotics
Taking a probiotic supplement has several benefits, such as treating digestion problems, restoring healthy bacteria in your intestines, and supporting the maintenance of a healthy immune system.
Treats Digestion Problems
Probiotics are known to help with a variety of digestive problems, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Probiotics can help lower the pH level in the colon, which may help stool move faster through it, ultimately regulating bowel movements, according to research. Probiotics may also prevent or reduce intestinal inflammation that may cause pain, discomfort and bloating.
Boosts the Immune System
The immune system has a vital role in the body, as it protects us from harmful substances, germs and cell changes that could make us ill. Research has found that probiotics may help give your immune system a boost and inhibit the growth of harmful gut bacteria. Another study found that certain probiotic strains can improve the outcome of intestinal infections by reducing the duration of diarrhea.
Restores Healthy Bacteria
In order to keep your body functioning properly, it is important for you to maintain a stable amount of probiotics in your gut. Healthy bacteria are very important because these microbes break down the nutrients from our food, making them easier for our bodies to absorb and use. A benefit of taking probiotics is that they help restore the natural balance of gut bacteria in the digestive system.
One way that probiotics restore healthy bacteria is through colonizing the gut. Colonization occurs when the ingestion of probiotics causes certain types of desirable healthy bacteria to grow. Many probiotics also contain prebiotics. Prebiotics are fiber foods that help nourish and support the growth and dominance of desirable healthy bacterial growth. This helps ensure that harmful microbes don’t have a chance to take their place at the same time, lessening the likelihood of inflammation or illness from occurring.
Finally, there are numerous medical studies that have shown that maintaining healthy gut bacteria colonies can be instrumental in losing weight and keeping it off. At CardioMender, MD we recommend a comprehensive approach to wellness and maintaining a healthy weight through lifestyle changes, which includes a healthy diet, an active lifestyle, stress reduction, and at times, includes taking a good probiotic supplement. You’ve Got To Live It!